When it comes to your cat’s nutritional needs, there are a lot of choices out there. In this post, we take a look at the best dry cat food options available, and we review the top nine.
We also let you know why Taste of The Wild Real Meat Premium Dry Venison & Salmon gets our Cat’s Whiskers Award for being the best.
Which is Best? Dry Cat Food vs. Canned
The proverbial claws are out on this one and have been for some time. There are those cat owners who will only feed their felines canned food, citing all the benefits of why it’s better. And then some believe that dry is best. Guess what? Neither is wrong… or right.
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of dry cat food.
Pros and Cons
It is more economical
Been able to feed your pet a top-rated dry cat food, even when you’re on a tight budget, is a huge benefit, and a no-brainer for the millions of people who have cats.
It is more convenient
When it comes to dry cat food, it’s more convenient. You can leave it out for a day or two without worrying about it going bad. And it’s especially handy if you’re away for the weekend.
It is energy-dense
What we mean is that your cats can get more calories more quickly when they eat dry cat food. Of course, if your cat has specific dietary needs, then this might not be the best option.
It has some moisture content
Dry food has around 10% water content, but making sure your cat also has access to his water bowl or water fountain will keep him hydrated and healthy.
More carbs and less protein
In the past, this would have been a cause for concern, but there is some excellent low carb cat food dry options available for you to choose from nowadays. The same goes for protein. There are several high protein dry cat foods to choose from too.
It doesn’t prevent dental disease
Contrary to popular belief, a kibble a day won’t necessarily the cavities away. Whether you feed your cat wet or dry food, you still need to look after his teeth. And that includes brushing them. This video will show you how.
Wet or dry? Even the experts can’t decide whether or not one has obvious health benefits over the other. But what we can all agree on, cat owners and experts alike, is your cat should have a well-balanced diet, with all the essential nutrients he needs to stay healthy and well, from kittenhood through to his senior years.
Choosing the Best Dry Food for Cats: Understanding the Label
We’re not saying it’s done, but less scrupulous pet food manufacturers might bargain on the fact that we don’t all necessarily understand the information that’s included on nutrition labels, and why it’s there.
Knowing how to read and decipher things like statement of purpose, net weight, the ingredients, nutritional adequacy statement, and guaranteed analysis is your first line of defense in choosing the very dry food for your pet.
Yup, we know it’s a lot to take in. And we also know that trying to read everything on a label when you’re in a hurry can be a real pain. We’ve highlighted, at a glance, what we think are the most important things to you need to consider.
This is pretty straight forward. The product name is the name or brand of the particular cat food you’re buying.
Statement of purpose
When we talk about the purpose of the food, it seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? It’s to feed your cat, but somewhere on the label, it has to say that it’s specifically for cats and also mention whether it’s suitable for kittens, older cats, indoor cats or cats with health concerns.
The net weight refers to how much food is in the box or packet and can be abbreviated to NET WT. Understanding this will help you make a more cost-effective choice when you’re comparing other brands that have the same net weight.
As per regulations, the ingredients on the label need to be listed in order from highest to lowest by weight. But remember that contents with more mositure will weigh more than the same ingredient in dry form.
The guaranteed analysis states the maximum or minimum amount of specific nutrients. These include proteins, fats, and fiber. It’s essential to keep in mind that nutrients are different from the ingredients list.
These are the instructions on how best to feed the specific food. This is usually a guideline depending on the product, and if there’s anything you’re not sure of, you can ask the salesperson or your vet for more information.
Nutritional adequacy statement
A nutritional adequacy statement indicates whether or not the food will meet your cat’s dietary needs, depending on his age or any health issues he might have.
Statement of responsibility
The statement of responsibility is quite simply the company responsible for the overall quality and safety of the product. If it reads ‘manufactured for’ or ‘distributed by,’ it means a third party is involved, but the name on the label is ultimately responsible for the final product. By law, they don’t have to include their street address, city, state, or zip code, but the company has to be listed in a city or telephone directory.
The Best Dry Cat Food Brands: What Ingredients to Look For and What to Avoid
Ingredients to look for
As carnivores, cats need protein-rich foods such as turkey, beef, salmon, chicken, or lamb. Unless your cat has special dietary needs, protein is one of the most important ingredients in his food, and it should be right at the top of the list.
The right kinds of fat are essential in your cat’s diet. After all, it’s what gives him his energy. Look out for named fat sources like lamb fat, pork fat, chicken fat, sunflower oil, and safflower oil. If it’s oil from a fish, then it should be a specific fish. Unnamed fats that you need to be aware of are things like vegetable oil, lard, animal fat, or poultry fat.
Here’s a little something that you might not have known. Cats are one of the few mammals that don’t produce taurine, an essential amino acid, which is why they need to get it from their diets. The dry foods contain natural sources of taurine, including organ meat and fish, or it can be given to your kitty in the form of a supplement.
As meat-eaters, cats don’t actually need carbs. But let’s be honest, if they were living in the wild, feeding on things like mice and birds, they would be getting a certain amount of carbs. Our recommendation is to look for carbohydrates in their most natural form, including sweet potatoes, green peas, or potato starch.
Vitamins and minerals
For cat food to be considered balanced and complete, it has to contain essential vitamins and minerals, as per the Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO’s Nutrient Profile. While almost impossible to pronounce, ingredients like tetrasodium pyrophosphate, calcium pantothenate, and thiamine mononitrate can be found in a lot of pet foods manufactured today.
Ingredients to Avoid
If you’re not sure whether the dry food you’re feeding your cat is meeting all his needs, or you think there might be an ingredient he’s battling with, use this guide as a quick reference.
- Artificial flavors and coloring which can be listed as Yellow 5, Blue 2, or caramel coloring.
- When it says ‘by-products,’ you have to ask yourself ‘by-products’ of what?
- Artificial preservatives such as BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin help preserve the shelf life of pet food, but they could have an adverse reaction on your cat.
- Don’t be fooled by vague or nondescript mentions of ‘meat’ in the listed ingredients. Any unnamed or unidentified animal sources mean you can’t be 100% sure what it is or where it came from
- Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate
- Vitamin 3K
- Rendered fat
Feeling overwhelmed? We get it. Labels and their jargon can leave you reeling, but we, as a general of thumb, look for products with loads of natural ingredients that can be found in our kitchen. And steer clear of those that have too many unpronounceable names and are sold with a hazmat suit.
The Proof is in the Pooping
When we think about the dry food, the first thing that comes to mind usually is the taste. But what about its digestibility? By this, we mean how many essential nutrients are being absorbed, rather than ending up in the litter box.
The proof of the food’s digestibility is definitely in the pooping. Look out for feces which is:
- Too frequent
If you’re not sure, speak to your vet. It could be that the ingredients are of low quality, there are too many artificial preservatives, animal by-products, and fillers or that your cat is sensitive to a particular ingredient.
The wrong food doesn’t only mean he’s not getting all the nutrients he needs, it can also cause disease or make existing conditions worse. In extreme cases, it can be fatal.
Dried Cat Food Reviews: Our Nine Top Picks
- Taste of The Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Rocky Mountain Premium Dry Venison & Salmon
- Taste of The Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Rocky Mountain Premium Dry Trout & Salmon
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
- Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Adult Dry Cat Food
- Purina Beyond Grain-Free, Natural, Adult Dry Cat Food
- IAMS Proactive Health Indoor Weight and Hairball Care Dry Cat Food
- Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Adult Cat Food
- Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free With Real Chicken Adult Dry Cat Food
- Purina Friskies Surfin’ & Turfin’ Favorites Adult Dry Cat Food
Taste of The Wild Real Meat Premium Dry Venison & Salmon
Overall Winner: Best High Protein Dry Cat Food
If your cat’s tried Taste of The Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Rocky Mountain Premium Dry with Roasted Venison & Smoked Salmon before, then it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that it tops our list.
Packed with protein and completely grain-free, the roasted venison and smoked salmon dry cat food nourishes your cat the way nature intended. The bowl-licking recipe contains omega 6 and 3 fatty acids for a shiny coat and healthy skin as well as naturally sourced antioxidants including sweet potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries and raspberries for his overall health. Zinc, vitamin E and selenium support his immune system, and taurine, an essential ingredient in a good dry cat food keeps your cat’s heart healthy.
What’s in the food as is important as what’s not and you won’t find any grain, wheat, corn, artificial flavors or colors, or preservatives. And because all the ingredients are from sustainable, trusted sources, you know it’s good for the environment too.
Taste of The Wild Real Meat Recipe Premium Dry Trout & Salmon Cat Food
With real trout, Taste of The Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Rocky Mountain Premium Dry Trout and Salmon Cat Food comes in at number two on our list.
While it has a slightly lower protein content and only 350 calories per cup when compared to the roasted venison and salmon recipe, it still contains all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients Taste of the Wild customers have come to expect.
As with all their products, you won’t find any grains, preservatives, artificial flavors or colors, just natural, healthy goodness that supports your cat’s digestion, immune system, and overall well-being.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free, Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
Best Low Carb Dry Cat Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free, Natural Adult Dry Cat Food is another very good choice. And while it costs a little more than your average dry cat food, we think it’s worth it.
The recipe, inspired by the diet of the lynx, is made using real chicken, with zero poultry by-products or substitutes. Because it’s grain-free, you won’t find corn, soy, or wheat, and there are no preservatives or artificial flavors and colors.
We like that this product contains LifeSource Bits, a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that have been put together with a very clever team of animal nutritionists and holistic vets. This means your cat’s overall health is completely covered, from the tips of ears right down to his tail.
Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Adult Dry Cat Food
Best for Budget
Purina is a brand we’ve come to know and love over the years. They’re synonymous with cat food that’s affordable, nutritious and tasty, so it makes sense that several of its products make our top nine list.
Combining dry food with tender bits, Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Adult Dry Cat Food ensures your cat is getting enough moisture as well as all the protein he needs to support and maintain healthy muscle growth. The main ingredient is real chicken, and it’s packed with essential minerals and vitamins, including taurine, omega-6, and antioxidants for long-term overall health.
We like that it comes in four convenient sizes, and it’s affordably priced. We have to mention that this isn’t grain-free and it does contain wheat flour, corn gluten meal, fish meal, and soy, so it’s not the best choice if your cat suffers from grain, seafood or soy allergies.
Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
Most Affordable High Protein Dry Cat Food
Even though we’re reviewing Purina Beyond Whitefish and Egg Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food, we have to point out that there are five different flavor combinations including the newest additions High Protein Icelandic Arctic Char and High Protein Pacific Tuna.
As one of the brand’s lowest carbohydrate dry cat food options available, there are no grains included only healthy, wholesome ingredients including whitefish, egg, cassava root, pea protein, and sweet potatoes. Also, there are no artificial flavors, colorings, or preservatives.
What we really like is that it’s available in a 3 lb size, which means you can give it a try before buying the larger bags, so you pretty much save money from the get-go. The only quibble a few customers seem to have is that the kibbles themselves are quite big, which might make them difficult to swallow. If your cat has dental issues or you’re worried about him choking, then you should definitely look at Purina’s Tender Selects.
IAMS Proactive Health Indoor Weight and Hairball Care Dry Cat Food
IAMS Proactive Health Indoor Weight and Hairball Care Dry Cat Food contains fewer calories than other IAMS recipes, so it’s perfect for indoor cats that don’t need too much energy. It also contains L-carnitine, an effective fat-burning ingredient that keeps your kitty in tip-top shape.
Because it’s low in carbohydrates, IAMS Proactive Health Indoor Weight and Hairball Care Dry Cat Food with real chicken is often recommended by vets as a weight management solution. And for cats with hairball problems or those battling with smelly litter-box blues, the combination of beets, rice, and whole grains aid digestion, eliminating both issues effectively.
However we need to add that it contains corn grits, corn gluten meal as well ground as fish oil. This means it’s not suitable for cats with seafood or corn allergies.
Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Adult Cat Food
Another Purina product? Well, when you’ve been around as long as they have, you have a cat food solution for every dietary need out there. Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Adult Cat Food has been specially formulated with indoor cats in mind. With weight management and hairball control top of mind, it contains real turkey as the number one ingredient along with omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy coat and loads of fiber to aid digestion.
Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Adult Cat Food also contains essential minerals and vitamins along with antioxidants for overall well being, but it also has corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, and soy protein. These ingredients, while not a problem for healthy cats, aren’t great for those that suffer from grain, corn, or soy allergies.
Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free With Real Chicken Adult Dry Cat Food
Best Budget Dry Food
Another offering from Purina is their Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free With Real Chicken Adult Dry Cat Food. Considered to be one of the top-rated dry cat food options around at the moment, it combines quality and affordability for you, the owner, and little bits of delicious goodness for your favorite feline.
Made with real chicken and packed with 25 essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, you know your cat’s get all the nutrition he needs to stay healthy. But with only 358 calories per cup, you don’t have to worry about weight gain. And the natural fiber keeps your kitty’s digestive system working correctly, all the while reducing the chance of hairballs.
Cats love this particular chow, and we think it’s an excellent grain-free choice that contains no preservatives or artificial flavors or coloring. But we have to mention that chicken by-product meal is included, which might not be an ingredient of choice for some.
Purina Friskies Surfin' & Turfin' Favorites Adult Dry Cat Food
All Life Stages
Not even a cat can resist the idea of surf ‘n turf, and as far as dry cat food ratings go, Purina Friskies Surfin’ & Turfin’ Favorites Adult Dry Cat Food ranks up there with the best of them.
Chicken, beef, salmon, crab, ocean whitefish, and liver provide your cat with a balanced meal that is absolutely delicious. While essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, taurine, zinc, and antioxidants take care of his skin, coat, immune system, and digestion.
Unfortunately, the addition of artificial colors, ground corn, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, and chicken by-product meal mean it’s not the best choice for cats that have allergies or existing health problems.
Is it the Best Dry Cat Food for Your Cat?
What is the best dry cat food? Not an easy question to answer, right? It’s easy to get caught up in labels, brand names, and hype words, so instead ask yourself what the best dry food for your cat is?
Just like humans, cats have very different dietary and nutritional needs. An ingredient that’s bad for one person might not be harmful to another and what tastes great to some might not be all that tasty for others. It’s the same with dry cat food.
Knowing your cat, his health needs, and what tastes he likes (and doesn’t) will play a significant role in the food you choose. Our advice would be to go for products that have the AAFCO seal of approval and contain as many natural ingredients as possible.
At the end of the day, it’s more about the nutrients and less about the ingredients. And how your cat’s reacting to the food. Consider these factors:
- Is he excited to eat?
- Are his energy levels high?
- Is his coat shiny?
- Is he the right weight?
- If he has a chronic condition, is it improving?
If your answer is yes to these fundamental questions, then your cat’s getting all the goodness he needs from the food you’re giving him.
Have you tried any of the products we’ve reviewed? Or maybe we’ve forgotten your cat’s absolute favorite dry food and think it’s definitely worth mentioning. Let us know in the comments below.